15 Ways the Coronavirus Will Change Life as We Knew It

Are you one of the millions of Americans who believe the economy, social construct, and financial systems of the country will go back to normal right quick just as soon as the lockdown is lifted and we’re once again free to roam about? Regrettably, that thinking is likely to prove overly optimistic. There are too many ways the coronavirus will change life as we knew it. And as it does, our previous concept of normal is likely to find a place in the history books.

15 Ways the Coronavirus Will Change Life as We Knew It
15 Ways the Coronavirus Will Change Life as We Knew It

Below is a list of just 15 ways the coronavirus will change life as we knew it. There probably dozens more, but let’s work with these for the moment.

For the record, the purpose of this list isn’t to rain on anybody’s parade. Rather, it’s to help you get prepared for the changes that are likely to result in a whole new paradigm. Will you be ready for the changes as they unfold?

Let’s take a look at a few of them.

1. The World is Likely to Become More Internet-Dependent than Ever

Most of us have already experienced this in daily life. With heavy restrictions on physical mobility, we’ve had to turn to the Internet for everything. That includes surfing to find what stores are open and which restaurants have take-out, following up-to-the-minute news on the pandemic, and making sure the needed widget is available Walmart.

But the shift is even deeper. Where online banking was once a convenient option, it became the only option when the ability to go to the bank disappeared completely.

We’ve even been forced to visit the doctor through telehealth for what were once routine visits. And with the disruptions likely a common aftermath of the coronavirus, we should expect that to become a regular part of the healthcare scene.

Post-coronavirus, it’s not likely we’ll completely reverse our dependence on the Internet. Trends set in motion by a disaster like a pandemic have a way of taking root and becoming part of the new normal.

2. Work-from-home Will Become More Normal

Prior to the pandemic only about 5% of the workforce had a work-at-home arrangement for at least some of the work week. But as the pandemic shutdown expanded, millions more joined the ranks. Several people in my own extended family and circle of friends have become home-based as a result of the lock down.

If anything, the trend is likely to accelerate. Even as the technology for it – mostly the Internet – has grown in the past 20 years, employers have been reluctant to allow workers to home-base, even when it’s technologically possible.

As a result of the pandemic, millions of people have gotten a taste of work-at-home arrangements. It’s likely many will insist on continuing the arrangements even as the lock down is lifted. Meanwhile, employers – eager to slash operating expenses – will increasingly turn to work-at-home arrangements to reduce costly office space.

3. Commercial Office Space Will Take a Dive

It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the economy has already sunk into at least a recession. The International Monetary Fund is even predicting an economic crisis akin to the Great Depression. Under such economic conditions, where businesses are unable to expand or even maintain revenue, they’ll turn to cutting expenses – even more aggressively.

The most obvious area to cut will be payroll (see #6 below), but cost-cutting won’t end there.

A major expense for many businesses of all sizes is office space. Some own the buildings they operate in, while many more rent space. Either arrangement leads to long-term financial entanglements that are likely to be unsustainable in a weak and declining economy.

Look for office space (and retail space for that matter) to go dark and empty in the coming months. We had a taste of that during the last recession, but it’s likely to be worse this time.

But the passage of 10 years has definitely created more options for the businesses that remain open. We just discussed the ability to home-based employees, which in and of itself requires far less real estate. The increase in online sales and business activity, along with remote employee capabilities, make businesses less dependent on physical operating space.

Already, there are many online businesses that have little or no physical office space. They remote-base employees, work with outside contractors and vendors, and obtain product from third-party suppliers and manufacturers.

But apart from online businesses, many businesses of all sizes have become more reliant on online sales. With that shift, the decline in office and retail space might happen even faster than any of us can imagine.

4. More People Will Become Self-employed

As the number of jobs declines, millions of people will have no choice but to become self-employed. That’s not a bad thing, because in many respects self-employment is the ultimate career solution. It’s certainly been the case for me as a freelance blog writer, and I suspect necessity will force others to this realization soon enough.

It’s not just the jobs that will disappear completely – many will simply be downgraded to part-time or contract. That was already happening before the pandemic. We have every reason to believe the trend will accelerate.

Many argue that there are not enough opportunities for millions of people to become self-employed. I completely disagree. As businesses close their doors, opportunities will open for enterprising individuals to start their own businesses to fill the voids.

One advantage every upstart has over the closed businesses is a lack of high fixed costs. Many of the businesses that will fold in the coming months and years will be doing so because of high rents, debt payments, insurance, and payrolls.

As a self-employed person, you’re essentially starting with a clean slate. Unburdened by a high fixed cost structure, you’ll be able to operate profitably in a way that predecessor businesses could not.

There’s another important factor that shouldn’t be ignored. Many will begin part-time businesses to supplement reduced employment arrangements. They may find themselves juggling a part-time business with a part-time job.

More than anything, self-employment requires a change in mindset. Over the past 75 years, Americans have been increasingly educated to take jobs in the corporate and government sectors. Self-employment has declined steadily since. Expect it to make a surprise comeback.

Mindsets change quickly when bank accounts, pantries and refrigerators are empty.

The Great Gig Worker Migration

Already, an estimated 57 million people work in what’s loosely described as the gig economy. It’s a good bet many of those gigs will disappear. But for those who abandon working in the gig economy, they’re already halfway toward at least part-time self-employment. They just have to take that final step forward.

5. Look for Employers to Scale Back on Health Insurance

Employees and office space won’t be the only expenses to get cut in the post-pandemic economy. In an effort to cut expenses wherever possible, expect employers to take a knife to employee benefits. Those benefits account for more than 30% of the average employee’s total payroll costs to their employer.

This will have different repercussions – both good and bad – but mostly bad.

The good news – which really isn’t so good – is that fewer people with health insurance will cause demand for healthcare to decline. In theory at least, that should put downward pressure on the overall cost of both healthcare and health insurance.

The bad news is that millions more will join the ranks of the uninsured. That will force people to either go without medical treatment, or rack up large debts to get it.

The combination of events could help to fuel something resembling legitimate health care reform. But let’s hold that discussion for #7 below.

6. Many Pre-Coronavirus Jobs Won’t Come Back

By the end of April more than 30 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. There are millions more who have either lost their jobs or their businesses due to the pandemic, but aren’t eligible for benefits. Nobody knows exactly how many people are unemployed, and it seems the government no longer even publishes anything that resembles a reliable unemployment rate.

But one thing that seems pretty certain is that many of the tens of millions of jobs lost won’t be coming back. Sure, the government is providing forgivable loans to small businesses to hire employees back through the Paycheck Protection Program, but what happens when that program runs out, and employers are forced to lay off workers on a more permanent basis?

7. Senior Housing will Enter a Steep Decline

Here’s a grim statistic: 20% of coronavirus deaths in the US are connected to nursing homes. This will almost certainly lead to a decline in the number of people hoping to get family members into nursing homes and related facilities.

In fact, a decline of as much as 50% in senior housing in general has been forecast as a worst-case scenario.

There were already signs that demand for senior housing was declining prior to the pandemic. But the fear fresh over the coronavirus, and a heightened concern about future pandemics, are likely to lead to a rapid decline in the demand for senior housing.

Silver lining: the demand for at-home caretakers is likely to rise substantially in the next few years. That will create both jobs and business opportunities.

8. Americans Will Rediscover Saving Money

This is a good financial habit that never should’ve gone out of style. But with credit so easy to get, and living costs rising steadily over the decades, there hasn’t been much room in many household budgets for savings.

That needs to change, and the pandemic will probably make it happen. Savings – not credit – are the foundation of financial success, a concept that’s soon to be rediscovered.

One of my pandemic observations is that part of the reason why it hit so hard economically is because so many people went into it without savings and with too much debt. Necessity should cause that balance to shift.

9. Long-distance Travel won’t Make a Comeback

Part of the reason will be lingering pandemic fears, including concern over future pandemics. But an even bigger cause is likely to be a prolonged economic downturn. Expect to see businesses make drastic cuts in business travel, in part to cut costs, but also because of the sudden commonality of communication services like Zoom and Skype.

During the lock down, we become acutely aware of the difference between essential and nonessential businesses and occupations. Travel is one of the most nonessential activities there is. Faced with a choice between making a house payment and traveling to the Virgin Islands for vacation, making the house payment is going to win in the vast majority of households.

Still another factor is the current, massive financial troubles being experienced throughout the travel industry. That includes airlines, hotel chains, resort properties, and cruise lines. Many won’t survive and others will downsize, which will drastically reduce the ability to travel.

10. Alternative Energy is “On Hold” for the Foreseeable Future

Alternative energy has been seen for years as being the ultimate solution to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. That’s been going on since the 1970s, and we’ve made relatively little progress on that front since.

For example, at its peak, all-electric vehicles reached just 2.1% of the US auto fleet. Meanwhile, renewable energy accounted for just 10.9% of all electricity generated in the US in 2019. Of that just 7.3% came from much-celebrated wind power, and only 1.8% from the even more revered solar power.

The main obstacle to alternative energy has been cost. Electric cars cost more than gas powered cars, and alternative sources of electricity are more expensive than power generated by fossil fuels.

With the recent collapse in oil prices, the situation unlikely to change. In an economic decline, fossil fuels will remain cheap for the foreseeable future. That won’t bode well for alternative energy sources.

11. We’ll Experience a General Debt Meltdown

When you spend some time considering the number of industries that are either in trouble or likely to be in the very near future, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict a debt collapse. Seriously impaired industries include airlines, hotels, other travel related businesses, oil companies, senior living facilities, office and retail buildings and their owners, and alternative energy.

In a general economic decline, it’s also likely we’ll see the consolidation in the number of households, which will reduce the demand for both homeownership and rentals. Already the auto industry is reporting steep declines in sales, and we don’t even need to discuss the plight in the restaurant sector.

Since virtually every industry in the US economy is built largely on a foundation of debt, the likelihood of those obligations being honored is becoming more suspect all the time.

A pandemic recession/depression – we’re not sure which it is yet – is likely to be both more severe and more prolonged than the financial meltdown of a decade ago. That’s not a hard prediction to make since the downturn will affect far more industries than the last recession did.

A federal rescue may be capable of saving one or two industries. But it’s highly unlikely to be able to backstop a dozen or more. Just the fact that they moved in with trillions of dollars in bailouts in a matter of weeks confirms the severity of the situation from the highest levels.

12. America’s Fascination with Incarceration May Finally Come to an End

In #7 we discussed the coming decline in senior housing. That’s likely to extend to any and all institutions where people are essentially on permanent quarantine. That includes the prisons.

There are currently 2.3 million people imprisoned in the US. And while it’s not likely that the American appetite for criminal justice (particularly as it’s fed by the media and government) is likely to subside, it will moderate by necessity. The cold reality is that anywhere that large numbers of people are held in close quarters is a breeding ground for disease and pandemics.

Expect to see either shorter sentences or house arrest/restitution become more common going forward. It’s also likely many non-violent offenders will be released in the coming months and years. The reduction in state revenues as a result of a pandemic recession is likely to force the issue from a financial angle.

13. We’ll Be On-the-lookout for the Next Pandemic for Decades

One of the problems with a ubiquitous crisis like a pandemic is that it remains etched in the memory for a generation or more. For the foreseeable future, people will continue to be on the lookout for either the next pandemic or even a recurrence of the coronavirus itself.

That will make people more cautious on a number of fronts. First, some degree of social distancing is likely to become the norm. That will put a damper on large gatherings, like sporting events and concerts, for a very long time. It’ll also be another factor limiting airline travel, and particularly travel to foreign destinations.

Along the way, we’ll also be vulnerable to scares, both real and imagined. While there’s been a near unshakable faith in the ability of science and technology to overcome all ills, that confidence is now suspect. Even the outbreak of a particularly severe flu season may send the public into voluntary quarantine. That will not only have social consequences, but also economic ones.

14. Prices Will Come Down Across the Board

Given that the demand for most products and services is declining and likely to remain weak for the next few years, one advantage of the pandemic is likely to be lower prices for most of what we consume.

The only way for businesses to maintain cash flow will be to cut prices and attempt to maintain a slice of whatever market share there is. Expect to see falling prices for houses, rents, automobiles, hotel rooms, healthcare services (see below), restaurant meals, utilities, education, and (ironically) travel, among many others.

One of the areas where I see a particularly acute decline in prices is housing, in both house prices and rents. If the number of households contracts, which will be highly likely in a prolonged economic decline, that alone will create the oversupply that will cut prices. But that won’t be the only force affecting housing.

The other is going to be on the supply side. True, it’s likely new construction of houses and apartments will crater. But at the same time, the steady rise in empty office buildings, retail spaces, senior homes, and hotels is going to cry out for re-purposing.

Here’s my prediction: Some of it is likely to be subdivided to provide space for new, small businesses. But the vast majority, particularly senior housing and hotels, are likely to be converted into permanent or even semi-permanent housing units. That will create a generous supply of cheap alternative housing, that will force more traditional housing units to become more affordable.

Why a general price collapse will ultimately be good news

The media, the government, and real estate-related industries of all stripes will cast a price collapse as an unmitigated disaster. The reality is likely to be something very different.

Housing may end up being the leading driver in a general price decline. Should that happen, there will be a real possibility that we’ll finally get sustainable economic growth that will benefit the masses, and enable the rebuilding of the American middle class.  Affordable housing will be foundational to that shift. The current trend toward ever more expensive housing is one of the major forces gutting the middle class.

15. We May Finally Get Something that Looks Like Real Healthcare Reform

I’ll admit, this one seems to stretch the imagination. But that’s only because we’ve become conditioned to belief that health care costs move in only one direction – up.

But there are several reasons why that dynamic may be about to reverse in the aftermath of the pandemic:

  • The rise in both unemployment and underemployment will cause millions to lose their health insurance, reducing the demand for healthcare at all levels.
  • To cut costs, employers will either reduce their health insurance subsidies or eliminate the plans entirely. With millions of even employed workers going without health insurance, downward pressure on prices will be even stronger.
  • The prospect of the coronavirus pandemic may cause people to a) take better care of themselves as a way to minimize their vulnerability, and 2) avoid healthcare facilities for fear of infection.
  • Millions of unemployed, underemployed, and low-wage workers – who suddenly have no health insurance – may flock to the healthcare exchanges. When they do, they’ll get generous tax subsidies, that will effectively create a pseudo-public health care system.
  • The combination of all the above will create tremendous political pressure to finally reform healthcare. That doesn’t mean coming out with a nationalized health insurance plan, but rather removing the government-imposed regulations that have largely caused the healthcare price spiral in the first place.

The decline in health care costs – which I fully admit most people can’t buy into right now – will be just one more component of a general decline in prices. But it’s exactly what we need, not only to recover from the pandemic economic crisis, but also to create real long-term growth for the majority of Americans. After all, until the coronavirus came along, healthcare costs were the biggest problem for most people.

Final Thoughts on Ways the Coronavirus Will Change Life as We Knew It

I’ll admit this list seems gloomy at first glance. But it doesn’t contain much that most other people haven’t already thought of. Only the blind optimists still believe in the “V” shaped economic recovery. Most of the rest of us know we’re facing an uncertain future, even one where the rules will change.

But if we’re going to recover from this pandemic, at least economically, we’re going to have to make a realistic assessment of what’s likely to play out. From there, we’ll need to change our thinking, then adjust our strategies and tactics.

And as you see, not all that I’ve written here has been gloomy. If we can get past the initial economic shock – which we’re already in – then gradually move toward self-employment and saving money, the general decline in prices has the potential to create the first real economic recovery in decades. But before any of that can happen, we’re going to have to let go of the past and embrace an uncertain future. And if you think about it, there really is no alternative.

Can you think of other ways the coronavirus will change life as we knew it?

( Photo by pierceout )

23 Responses to 15 Ways the Coronavirus Will Change Life as We Knew It

  1. Generally, besides people losing their jobs many of the things that you describe are needed and good.

    I’m one of those guys that liked the lockdown. I have been enjoying a lot fewer cars on the road. Our business is on track to have it’s the worst year since the first year we were opened. It somehow is better. We make less but it is ok. We have a lot fewer expenses and the money we do make is actually more profitable. We were heavily weighted in the wholesale market, now all are sales the past month or two have been retail. Not as big but much more profitable.
    I am enjoying working a lot fewer hours and am able to take off and go play golf at one or so in the afternoon. Gas prices have come way down and my Auto insurance gave me a 15 percent corona discount, lol.

    I think a lot of the changes you describe above are good. My parents never thought about getting on a plane. We took drives or drove on vacation. That was part of the fun. I’m gonna do the same thing.

    I felt that life had become too overwhelming, to fast and to complicated. I spend less money. So honestly, I think the lockdown has forced people to face reality more than it had before.
    I like the thought of more people working from home. There is not all the need for office space. People here that were in the building business are going be really hurt by this. We must have seven or eight construction projects around the city all sitting idle.
    I see more people walking. Doing yard work, I see more kids around the neighborhood, riding bikes and playing in the yards. I like that. It reminds me of the way we were as kids.

    It is just a shame that this is what had to happen for something I think is good in a lot of ways. All the people that got sick and died is a terrible thing.

    Of course, I think we are going to see a huge economic crash and a huge deflation, followed by huge inflation. I think it has already started but we have not noticed it yet.
    I did notice that the supermarket shelves have been a lot more empty during the last few weeks.

  2. Hi Tim – “I think we are going to see a huge economic crash and a huge deflation, followed by huge inflation. I think it has already started but we have not noticed it yet” – I agree on all counts, and about the way you described the sequence too. The deflation has probably already started. And I agree, I think it’s going to seriously affect the housing/construction sector, but then that’s been overpriced for a few years now and due for a fall. That’ll be a positive because it will increase housing affordability.

    I’ve been thinking about the possibility of an inflation, and I’ve read many opinions against it. Mainly, the opinions argue that a deflation is more likely. But I don’t think it’s going to be an either/or, but rather both. The deflation will set in, which will magnify the impact of the amount of debt that’s going to be built up to fight off the deflation. Once it becomes obvious that that it can’t be paid back in real dollars, it will be monetized leading to the inflation that will come later.

    We went grocery shopping today and while the store seemed to have most of everything back in stock, the latest shortage is meat. In fact, they’ve reduced the size of the meat counter by one-third and they’re rationing two packages of each – beef, ground beef, pork and chicken – eight packages of meat in all. Take more, and they take it back at the checkout. I’ve been reading about that, but didn’t think it would happen so quickly. But once again, this pandemic/economic crisis is unfolding quickly, and nothing should surprise us.

    But getting to your point about the simpler life, a friend read off something from a faith opinion, reflecting what God might say about coronavirus. “You were worshiping idols, so I’ve taken them all away. You worshipped the stock market, and I’ve collapsed it. You worshiped your sports heroes, and I’ve shut down your sports. You worshiped your musicians, and I’ve taken away your concerts. You worshiped celebrities, and I silenced them. You worshiped your technology, and I’ve taken it away.”

    That’s not exactly the way it goes, but it’s the general gist. I actually think people of faith have drawn closer to that faith. But even among those who don’t have faith, I think they’re rediscovering a simpler life, and what life is all about. Certainly the threat of losing it, which the virus definitely implies, makes it more precious. And since so much will no longer be so abundant, we’re all forced to appreciate the “little things” much more than we have in the past.

    Yup, all that – as well as the disappearance of so many of the excesses – is all good, no matter how inconvenient it may seem in the meantime.

  3. Not everyone is going too seek self employment. The trucking industry will still need too be driven. Cars still need too be fixed. Things will get back to normal. What you consider normal may be different than mine. Certain parts of the economy will always be there. I’m hoping that the housing prices will come down after all this crap is done with. Also, people who are reading your blog need too know the date of your blog posts. The date of the post is important too the content being read.

  4. Hi Bobby – I agree with you that not everyone is going to seek self-employment. But the virus has exposed the reality that between 60% and 70% of today’s jobs are “nonessential”. You’re right, truck drivers, car mechanics, doctors, nurses, and others will still find jobs. But many of the nonessentials are going to seek self-employment because there won’t be any jobs available in their previous fields.

    I do strongly believe house prices are going to take a serious nosedive. They’ve only gotten as high as they have because of historically low interest rates. But those have gone about as far as they can, now economic reality is going to take over. That, in combination with the oversupply of commercial space as well as hotels and care facilities is going to create a double whammy.

  5. I agree that their will always be a need for certain jobs. You put that a good way. This exposed the fact that over half the jobs people have are non essential.
    My son said the other day, he never realized how much time is wasted in school with nonsense that has nothing to do with learning.
    Like I said I’m enjoying the quiet and hope it doesn’t go back.
    There’s a place I go near are airport sometimes to hit goofballs. There is a plane landing every two minutes. Now I saw one plane in two hours land this past time I was there.

    It will be deflation for awhile. Look at oil lol
    Are gas went down fifty cents a gallon already.
    Bring on the deflation. I enjoy it for a bit.
    Of course that will end then we will be paying twenty dollars for milk.

  6. Kevin, I’m not so sure about prices going down. Grocery store prices are up significantly. That’s due to limited supply and an increase in the cost of production. With all the social distancing requirements, it requires a complete reworking of manufacturing plants, processing facilities, and warehouses. The extra cleaning supplies and labor hours shifted to sanitizing vs. production are all increasing the cost of doing business. That’s pushing prices higher, not lower.

    Plus, many of the essential workers are receiving extra hourly pay (hazard pay, if you will) and working longer shifts. Some say that this pay increase is only temporary. But I have a feeling employers will need to permanently increase wages for reliable, well-trained workers in the essential sectors where work at home is not an option.

    Even though retail work will shift more toward home delivery and curbside pickup, that still requires on-site employees to shop, package, check out, stage, and deliver the goods.

    I DO think customers will return to stores, cafes and restaurants, because people are social beings. I work in a grocery supermarket, and I know lots of customers look forward to getting out to shop, despite donning a mask, waiting in line to get in the store, and having to maintain social distance inside the store.

    As for housing prices, I think it will vary by market. I think that cities, especially densely populated areas, will see a huge drop in demand, and thus, real estate prices will tank. But small towns and even the rural fringes are likely to see an increase in demand from city dwellers escaping crowded, expensive housing markets.

    Condo associations are likely to be hit hard when a lot of owners stop paying maintenance assessments and fees. HOAs will also find that many owners aren’t willing or able to pay fees for community amenities such as pools and playgrounds, and budgets will strain to pay for maintenance of private roads, private security services, stormwater infrastructure, and any private utilities. Home and condo prices are likely to drop due to deferred maintenance and an increase in crime.

    Owners who can move out, will. Many will become reluctant landlords, renting their homes/condos because no one will buy them. Others will walk away and let the bank and/or HOA foreclose.

    BUT…with more remote work, work from home, and self-employment, people won’t be tied to living in a major metro area. So city dwellers can escape to small towns and rural areas in search of more elbow room, less crime, and affordable housing.

    The big caveat here: it all depends on reliable, fast internet service and satellite technology. Any area that can offer great telecommunications services will be in high demand.

    Investors buying for short term rentals like AirBnb will disappear. And most people will be happy about that — except for the real estate investors who were making a lot of money before the pandemic.

    I do agree with your prediction that we’ll see an increase in the supply of rental housing. However, I think we’ll also see a decline in the quality of rental housing. Most of it will come from run-down, de-converted condominiums, defunct hotels and motels, and abandoned vacation rental communities. Senior housing communities were already seeing a decline in demand, including the active adult communities with high HOA fees. I think that a lot of these homes, including detached single family homes, will become rental properties in the future, and the communities will have to drop their age restriction to allow younger adults and parents with children to move in.

    We will see even more pressure to increase public funding for housing, particularly for seniors and the disabled on social security.

    Larger homes will be renovated to house multiple generations of the same family under one roof. I think we’ll see more senior adults living with their adult children instead of nursing homes or assisted living facilities. I think we’ll also see more young adult children living at home rather than moving away to college or to distant cities in search of careers.

  7. Hi Deborah – I think the current spike in food prices will be temporary – unless food production is permanently impaired. Also, right now people are flush with generous unemployment benefits, and food shopping is really their only guilty pleasure. That’ll change soon enough.

    As far as wages rising, I thought about all that you said about companies needing extra staff to deal with the effects of the coronavirus. But with tens of millions unemployed, we’ll see downward pressure on wages in most fields. Though I do think the opposite may be true in select sectors, like groceries. And eventually the hazard pay is going to disappear as well. We also need to factor in that a lot of companies and sectors are in serious trouble, and will begin cutting positions permanently.

    I completely agree that people will return to shopping and public places. As you say, we need these places for outlets and diversion. But my suspicion is we’ll go to these places and spend less money than in the past. The experience will become more important than the consumption. I think that’ll be a healthy shift.

    We’re in agreement on housing, and HOAs in particular. A recent news story confirms this may already be baked into the cake. McMansions converting to multi-occupancy properties isn’t unprecedented. During the Great Depression, Victorian mansions built around the turn-of-the-century were converted to boarding houses and multifamily homes when they were abandoned by their owners. I think we’re going to see a general reversal of the housing trends of the past 50 years, and that there’s going to be a huge oversupply lasting a decade or more. Anyone with the job and/or money will pretty much be able to live wherever they want. But you’re also totally right about the quality of housing declining. I have no idea how that’s going to play out, but it looks like a reasonable prediction.

    As to Internet service in rural communities, one of the big companies – I forget which – is participating in a project to bring high-speed Internet to 3 million rural households. I think that as more people relocate to rural communities, free to do so through remote work arrangements and self-employment, the demand for improved service will force the issue even more. That said, any rural areas that don’t get a significant influx of outsiders will probably remain depressed, or even get worse than now.

    On the increased pressure for public funding on housing, I think that’ll be more about governments taking over abandoned properties, and acting as landlords for low income occupants. I don’t see any significant waves of new construction in that direction. And I totally agree that we’re going to see a significant return to multi-generational households. (My wife and I are already preparing for that outcome with our own kids – either we move in with them, or they move back in with us.)

    In the end however, I think these will be mostly positive developments. We’re just going to have to get used to letting go of what we took for granted in the past. Once we do, we’ll be able to move forward to what I think will ultimately be a better future. By returning to some old-time economic religion, we’ll see fixes in much of what’s now broken.

  8. Hi Kevin, great points and I am on the internet providers will be increasing their service costs. I personally am not on the internet a lot, in fact hate it. Rather be out in the real world enjoying life. Anyway, one of my neighbors had expressed just this fact. And the sad part is that in our area in Virginia, they have the monopoly of the area. Like the airlines, this causes them to feel they can charge whatever as we are stuck with them. Fortunately for me I learn’t about the mobile unit that Tmobile provides as part of my adult daughter’s phone plan. She paid for it along with my phone and the monthly service use attached to both items. Lol, as far as health reforms, I would not hold my breath. Thank goodness with me retired now for 2 weeks at age 62 and getting my social security early, I am so grateful for the free clinic in my area. Bottom line, we have to choose a healthy lifestyle in order to eliminate some of our health issues. I made a promise to myself to get up at 5am every morning so I can head out the front door at 6am to walk. Now when the alarm goes off, this old lady does not want to get up but by doing so I feel I have some control over my choices. This virus has totally depressed me as I have so many ideas on my famous bucket list which now have to wait for life to return to normal whatever that may be. Here in Virginia so many people are getting infected in spite of a mandatory mask wearing and social distancing. Yes, some folks just have not gotten the message, it is contagious and you could die. Great post, Angela

  9. Hi Angela – Good to hear from you (though I’ve been absent from the blog for a while myself). I agree with you on internet providers. We have only one in our area and they have a monopoly. Anything you do to try to lower the cost of the service brings you right back to the original payment. It’s like they’ve programmed in a certain revenue amount from each customer and it will only go up.

    I’m going to continue to be cautiously optimistic that COVID is the force that finally ushers in real reform with healthcare. If it doesn’t, this thing will get worse before it crashes (which it will). You’re so right about taking care of ourselves. We’re on our own – as usual. I walk most days myself and I live on a mountain.

    Here in New Hampshire we’ve been somewhat insulated from the virus. Even more now I’m realizing our move from Georgia – where the cases are now exploding – to NH was a leading from God. I think we’re safer here, in addition to being happier with life in general. But the COVID shutdown has made life less comfortable here too. A lot of the places we’d normally go to (like the beach) we haven’t been able to. I guess this is our new normal and we have to get used to it. Hopefully a lot of good will come out of it.

  10. Kevin, although the hazard pay has dried up for most retailers, some national leaders are raising their minimum wage to $15 per hour. https://www.marketplace.org/2020/06/17/why-target-is-raising-its-minimum-wage-to-15/

    I suspect we’ll see competitors move in the same direction, just as we now see the major retailers all requiring staff and customers to wear a mask in their stores.

    Although retail and grocery business will see a permanent shift toward e-commerce, curbside pickup, and home delivery, they are likely to also see a long-term, perhaps permanent boost in sales — especially if they’re agile enough to change their business model to align with new market demands.

    For example, as people spend more time working and staying at home, they eat more food, use more paper products and cleaning supplies, use more home office and school supplies, and look for more economical ways to enjoy their own homes and back yards. We’re already seeing a higher demand for outdoor cooking and entertaining, outdoor recreation (swimming pools, play equipment, biking, outdoor lawn games, etc.)

    Since people are rarely going out to restaurants to eat, they’re buying a lot more prepared and frozen foods from grocers. These items have a higher profit margin than standard grocery staples, but you can still feed your household for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal. Bonus — families get to spend more time together for meals and a lot less time waiting in line at restaurants.

    There’s also an acceleration of the shift (which was already underway prior to COVID19) toward healthier food and less toxic cleaning supplies. We’re seeing more local suppliers for food and supplies as major distributers have had to shut down due to virus outbreaks. Transporting goods over long distances and importing products from overseas is becoming very costly, and many consumers are demanding products made and grown in the USA or local region. This is actually a good thing.

    With more people working and learning from home, they’ll be eating breakfast and lunch at home instead of on-the-go or at work or school. There’s no telling when schools will fully reopen. When they do, a significant portion of parents will want to retain online learning and homeschool options. Even when concerns about the virus disappear, parents may not feel their public school is a safe learning environment, especially with crime and political dissension on the rise. I think we’ll see an even higher demand for school choice.

    I suspect that, even when the virus is under control, preferences will make a permanent shift toward home dining vs. dining out. A lot of restaurants are going out of business. There will be fewer choices, less competition, and higher menu prices for the few dine-in establishments that survive. Take out and delivery are more viable food service models — and perhaps catering for special events of the future.

    We’re also seeing a severe shortage of safe, high quality child day care, and a rise in costs. I also think more families may choose to have one parent stay at home to care for young children, reducing the number of potential employees looking for work outside the home. Other parents will opt for in-home child care providers or arrangements where parents can share the cost of child care and even home-based education. Some may also rely on grandparents who live with the family or nearby.

    So there may be some positive changes as a result of the pandemic.

  11. Hi Deborah – I completely agree with everything you’ve written. Though this is going to seem like a disaster in the short run, and it will be in many households, it has real potential to fix so much of what’s broken throughout the country.

    One thing you didn’t mention was how the greater emphasis on being and working at home is a return to family as the focal point of life. That’s exactly what we’ve lost in the past 50 years, and so much of the social disintegration we’ve been seeing is being caused by that breakdown. Also, as family and home life become more central to American existence, there’s real potential for a return to community. As we become more localized/home-based, so much of the social decay should right itself. And it’s none too soon too – projecting the trends of the last 50 years out over the next 20 or 30 points straight at a Mad Max-like world, where it’s everyone for themselves.

    I’m also of the opinion that, much like the Depression in the 1930s, millions of people were relatively unaffected by the economic decline, and some even prospered. The same thing will happen this time, and is already. Not all businesses will close their doors. The ones that survive will be stronger and more profitable. My daughter works in a popular, locally owned restaurant and was telling us this morning that business is better now than it was before the pandemic. And my wife’s company is already working on a strategy to increase online sales through their local storefronts.

    I’m pessimistic in the short run, because the worst effects of this are probably right in front of us. But if any of us can survive the next three or four years, I’ll dare to say we may look back and realize this was the beginning of a new and better era.

    The best evidence of that is that things weren’t great before the virus, despite all the official windowdressing. And it’s not hard to project how much worse they’ll get from here. Human beings, and especially human bureaucracies, are change resistant. Sometimes the only way to get real reform is through disaster that’s beyond our control. Economists have referred to this as creative destruction. Unpleasant, but completely necessary.

    And who knows? The inability of government to wave a magic wand and make all better may lead to less public confidence in government, ultimately forcing government to be more beholden and responsive to the citizens. Who wouldn’t welcome that???

  12. It would take me too long to comment. The government of NYS has weaponized this virus against it’s citizens. This state has become a total dictatorship. There closing businesses, shutting them down for one mask violation. You cannot sit at a bar without ordering a meal. Then when that became an issue the governor issued a list of meals that is an approved meal and not a snack or bar food. It’s completely out of control

  13. You’re not wrong Tim. What you’re describing is happening everywhere to one degree or another. But I can easily see how it’s magnified in a state like New York. The state leans so far to the left that they’ve lost any collective semblance of the traditional concept of American freedom. They’ve cast their lot with the nanny state, deciding it’s the only way.

    My unsolicited advice to anyone who lives in the state of New York and still values freedom is the vote with your feet and leave as soon as possible. There are too many people of like mind there to ever expect anything to change. But by leaving, you’ll be casting a vote of no-confidence. And if enough people leave, it will tarnish the state’s standing, not only here in the US, but also internationally. After all, who wants to be sailing on a ship that’s sinking?

    The problem in New York is that the micro-control factor has been going on so long that both the politicians and the people are accustomed to it, and think it’s somehow normal. I’m not speaking out of turn here either. I was born in New Jersey and lived much of my life there. When you live in New Jersey you’re well aware of what’s going on in New York. And while New Jersey mimics much of what New York does, they justify it by saying “at least were not as bad as New York” (I heard that all the time when we lived there). Put another way, “New Jersey is a good place because it’s 10% better than New York”. That mentality is reinforced by the fact that many of the people who do leave New York do no more than cross the river into New Jersey. When they do, they bring their New York attitudes and politics with them. How anyone stays in either state is beyond me. We moved out 27 years ago, and we’ve never regretted it once, even though most of our families are still there.

    Some would say that’s the wrong attitude, that we should stay and fight the system. But how much of your life and energy do you want to spend fighting a corrupt system? Especially since chances of winning in any significant way are close to impossible, because the number of people who support the status quo far outnumbers those who want change.

    It’s likely another outcome of the pandemic will be a huge shift in population, as the people looking for change and a better life move to the states that are more responsive to the needs and desires of their citizenry. We certainly found that to be the case in New Hampshire, and I’m sure it’s happening in other states. That will also have the dual effect of forcing the status quo states to change their ways to become more competitive. The alternative will be to deteriorate into poverty pockets, while the best and brightest go elsewhere.

    I think one thing governments always underestimate is that capital and talented people are seldom bound by geography. It’s those people who keep society moving forward, despite being a decided minority. My hope is that more people will seriously work to up their games in life, and reach their full potential. There’s a massive difference between wanting better for yourself and doing what’s necessary to make it happen. We need more the second group, and less of the first. But that’s going to require a big change in attitude.

    We can dare to dream.

  14. TimK, it’s roughly the same situation here in PA.

    The restaurants that will survive and thrive are the ones that have built up a loyal following over generations, and the ones willing and able to adapt to changing circumstances. Ultimately, eating establishments will have less competition, and patrons will expect a high quality of service for the extra money they will pay for the convenience and enjoyment of the future dining experience. Maybe it will lead to the demise of a lot of poor-quality nationwide food chains, in favor of locally owned eateries with personal pride in their product and service.

    Personally, I’ve only done take out and delivery since this all began in March. Mostly pizza, subs, or the occasional fast food drive through.

  15. I say AMEN to that Deborah. For the past 30+ years we’ve become accustomed to paying more for less for everything. The pandemic has the potential to reverse that trend, so that business returns to the basic concept that they need to earn the business of their customers. Here in NH we have mostly privately owned restaurants and many of them are outstanding. The chains are minimal, probably because they can’t even find NH on a map of the US. It wouldn’t bother me if the chains disappear. That would open the doors wide to the small mom & pops to return which would also put an end to unemployment. Now if we can only do something about those monopolies that are the worst offenders. Not so easy.

  16. I have two years left in this God forsaken s hole of a state. I’d leave the country if it were up to me but I’ll settle for an easier state.

  17. Kevin, In addition to the lockdowns, three of the reasons that the smaller mom and pop restaurants are going out of business are 1. In the larger cities they simply can’t afford the rent 2. In the large cities, the rioting has scared off customers and potential businesses. No one wants to build a business to have it looted, vandalized or burned down and have their insurance rates skyrocket. That’s the same reason businesses usually don’t locate in higher crime areas. 3. The measures businesses must take to sanitize much more than normal, provide PPE and then still allow only 25-50% customer capacity and have constant vacate tables is cost-prohibitive to many smaller restaurants. Many of those places are small and crowded to begin with and now can’t serve to capacity/ At least three long-time mom and pop places around here, two of which had been in business since the Great Depression and survived that AND WWII deprivations, have closed because it is not cost effective for them to renovate their entire interiors and seating arrangements,etc. and still pay their employees. None of these places did much carry-out and none did delivery or online and curbside pick-up. This area is small and very old-fashioned and countrified to begin with and I don’t think a lot of the newer apps and such will catch on. Around here only Domino and Papa John deliver. Everyday I see huge lines at the drive-thru at Mickey D’s and Wendy’s and Sonic and lots of cars in the parking lot at Ruby Tuesdays. So the chains CAN hang on and despite the trend to local and fresh, they are thriving while the local places are dying.

  18. I see your point Mary. A lot of this may have to do with geography. In the areas that have traditionally been dominated by chains and even some of the more rural areas, the mom-and-pop’s are likely to go away, at least for now. But it has to be admitted that some of them just couldn’t keep up with what’s been going on in the economy over the last few years. For example, a business that doesn’t have an online presence isn’t likely to survive, even without the pandemic shutdown.

    The reason I think the chains are in big trouble is because most of them are operating in higher cost areas. Plus they have large networks of outlets across the country, which have been built on a mountain of debt. They operate on low profit margins, and are going to be forced to close a lot of outlets. I think that’s going to be an opportunity for new independents and existing ones that can hang on. And not just with restaurants either, but also with other retail operations.

    For example, where the hotel chains are struggling, Airbnb is reporting their revenues are back to where they were before the pandemic. That’s all individual renting out their homes. We’ve got some independently owned businesses around here that are still running old school, and it surprises me that they’re still in business. But some of them are likely to survive anyway.

    I don’t get the whole idea that people living in rural areas would have greater loyalty to McDonald’s and Wendy’s than they would to locally owned businesses. If that’s the case, the mindset of rural America has changed for the worse. Everyone’s talking about keeping jobs in their local communities, but that’s not possible if you’re not supporting local businesses. It may be that the entire country has become so caught up with the chains that the locals have no chance anymore. I hope that’s not true, but I’m afraid you might be right about this.

    In my area, which is a mix of small urban, exurban, and rural, there are a lot of small businesses. But it seems like the chains are pulling out. In the past year or so we’ve lost Sears, Kmart, Models, Friendly’s, Master Wok, Gymboree, Payless, GNC, Charlotte Russe, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Pier 1 Imports, among other name brand stores. I’m hearing rumors of still more. The local Comfort Inn also closed down. But my bigger concern is for the many independent retailers around the state. If enough of those clothes, the entire nature of historic communities will change for the worse. It hasn’t happened yet, so I’m hopeful.

  19. Kevin, You live in rural NH. That area of the country is much more amenable to modern trends than my area of small town Central SW Virginia. The payment and communications systems are behind the times here. For example: You can not pay your electric or tax bills online here. You can pay by phone by they add a hefty $14.95 surcharge to do so. I get around that by paying directly out of my credit union account online and the credit union sends them a check at no extra cost to me. The restaurants I am referring to are local gathering places. People go there on Saturday mornings and after church. Only one of the places took debit or credit cards. They still take paper checks on the honor system. The one place which actually served the Bedford Boys of D-Day fame has gone under not because of lack of online ordering or carry-out but because of the nature of the place. It is crowded and people sit very close together and talk with their neighbors while ordering a country breakfast. That sort of environment is dead with all the social distancing and masks,etc. Not to mention 3/4 of the people down here don’t and won’t wear a mask at all for any reason. That’s not me but it is 3/4 of the populace here. I was saying before all this started if those businesses didn’t start taking card payments and stop keeping cow milking hours, they would go the way of the do-do bird. But no one listens to me.

  20. To Angela: Hi from a fellow Virginia resident! Amen about them not getting the message about the masks. The only places that enforce it down here are the ABC stores and the DMV office and medical facilities. The rest of the stores,etc. have signs up and people at the door but they let the unmasked in anyway.

  21. Hi Mary – I had no idea! You’re right about NH. On the one hand a lot of it is rural and even back woods. But at the same time, it’s very much rooted in the 21st century. There’s nothing we don’t have here that we had when we lived in either northern New Jersey or Metropolitan Atlanta. In fact, in some ways I’d say people up here are more progressive than either of those places. They respect the natural, but accept the technological. It’s an admittedly unusual mix.

    I was noticing the other day when my wife and I were at the local mall for our only shopping trip there in months that nearly everyone in the mall were wearing masks. There are some who don’t even up here. For example, my son was telling a story about how he was at Walmart a couple of days ago and some guy in the checkout line was making a stink because he was being told he had to wear a mask. He pulled the “I am an American and it’s my right blah blah blah…” My son shot back at him and said “I’m an American too and I have a right to not get your germs”. The guy grumbled an expletive and left.

    I’m going to say this at the risk of getting some hate mail, but people who play that “I’m an American” or that true blue patriot game are some of the biggest a-holes on the planet. They think it entitles them to be jerks because of their rights. And maybe this is a stretch on my part, but a lot of them have more than a small hand in the racial tensions in this country. As a white person I don’t want to believe that racism is real. But when I see these knuckleheads parading around with their real American mentality, I see how real racism is. Of course, they don’t just treat minorities poorly, but everyone. But I’m rambling on here…

    I absolutely agree with you that any small business, or even household, that doesn’t keep up with the changes in technology and in the economy is doomed to fail. What sucks about it is that living in an area like yours, once a business goes out there’s probably no one to replace it.

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